Category: PR /Brand Awareness

Business Principle:
Gaining brand-awareness for FREE

There’s no such thing as a negative story

The Issue

A disruptive and innovate UK Men’s Underwear Brand, Brass Monkeys, created a collection of Billboard Posters for a National Advertising campaign, the main image being a Male model wearing branded Boxer shorts. The Text captions, next to the photo played upon the Brands intelligent humour attribute, “Full Metal Packet” and “Loin King” (both misnomers being big movie box office hits some 15 years ago). Brass Monkeys Billboard campaign was officially banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (CAP), on the grounds that the photos of the male model in boxer shorts was “likely to cause serious and widespread offense to the ladies of the UK”. Our Expert was left facing a potential commercial disaster with the ad campaign creative and distribution costs already being pre paid, and now with no possibility of running the campaign.

The Solution

Our Expert calmly assessed the adjudication letter supplied by the ASA, looking for any possible weakness in their argument or inconsistency with their decision regarding recent or past ad campaigns that had been allowed by the ASA. Given the objection cited was specifically that a male model wearing men’s underwear was likely to cause offense to Women, our expert quickly assed that that such a decision was completely unfair when compared with the then ubiquitous billboard campaign for Wonderbra, showing very revealing breast cleavage photography of various female models wearing the branded underwear. The ASA ban against the male model/male underwear (but not against female/female lingerie) implied that they judged adult males would “enjoy” the images of lingerie clad females, but the adult female population would be “offended” by the image of a Male counterpart.  This appeared to show an underlying sexism in the structure of the ASA (CAP) decision making.  

Our Expert, then sure of this disconnect in reasoning, then (and importantly) took action! Writing a  short and punchy press release titled “Sexism behind the billboards” laying out the accusation of flawed sexist adjudication at the UK body essentially responsible for media compliance and commercial censorship.  The press releases were distributed to all National UK daily Newspapers.  Two days later the story was reported on the front page of the Independent newspaper, and was then picked up by all major National TV and radio channels and all National newspapers in the UK. Coverage extended to USA, Australia and Europe.  

Brass Monkeys came from relative brand obscurity to massive international “explosive and viral” news attention.  An independent Media monitoring company estimated that the “free” media coverage would have cost some £2m if similar space had been purchased (today’s value being in excess of £4m). Our Expert appeared on 6pm National TV news programme, a live political debate show, numerous live interviews, with other highlights being supported by 98% of UK viewers on a TV phone poll, and senior media commentators and influencers supporting the cause of the British Underwear brand. Brand awareness was the translated into both retail stockist demand and consumer sales. Just one press release transforming a negative “ban” into an international wave of public support.

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